2013 Preseason Award Projections: Thorpe Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Jim Thorpe Award is given to the top defensive back in college football. Last year, the Thorpe Award went to Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks who was an honorable mention in our preseason projection.

Thorpe Award Winner:

Bradley Roby, Ohio State

One of the big reasons why Ohio State went undefeated in 2012 was its tough defense. The Buckeyes had good players in all levels of the defense, but perhaps the most impressive player was Roby. The sophomore sensation was a real play-maker for the defense and a lockdown cornerback.

Roby made big improvements in 2012. The second-year starter totaled 63 tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, 17 passes broken up and two interceptions. He was one of the nation’s leaders in passes defended despite not having a bowl game or conference championship game to play in. Roby had a huge game to help Ohio State squeeze out a win over California in September. Against Nebraska, he dominated with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, to go along with five tackles and a pass break up. The junior also had big games against Penn State and Indiana.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder has excellent athleticism and speed to run with receivers. He reportedly consistently runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. While one might think that Roby is destined to come back to earth in 2012, he is a pure football player with off-the-charts instincts. Roby is a good run defender. He always seems to be around the ball and making his presence felt even when teams throw away from him. Roby was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award last season, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he brings home the honor in 2013.

Thorpe Runner-Up:

Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida

It wouldn’t be surprising if Purifoy has a huge junior season, and it isn’t out of the question for him to have an impact like former LSU star cornerback Patrick Peterson. Purifoy’s game and athletic skill set is often compared to Peterson. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound Purifoy has elite speed to go along with great size. Last year, the Gators rebounded to go 11-2 thanks to breakout performances from a lot of their young talent and Purifoy was one of those players who made a big impact.

Purifoy earned a starting job last year on the other side from Marcus Roberson, and Purifoy became the Gators’ best cover corner. He excelled in man coverage all season as Florida’s defensive scheme largely left Roberson and Purifoy playing on islands. Pufifoy recorded 51 tackles, five passes broken up and three forced fumbles.

Aside from defense, Purifoy was a superstar on special teams. All three of his forced fumbles came on special teams and he blocked two kicks. Purifoy had two forced fumbles to help Florida blow out South Carolina. One punt he blocked was scooped up by teammate Jelani Jenkins and returned for a touchdown in the final seconds of a 27-20 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Purifoy was a tremendous gunner on punt coverage all year.

The Gators are expecting a big season out of Purifoy this fall. The junior is a superior athlete and Florida plans on Purifoy being an essential part of its defense-led team. Purifoy is so fast and such a dangerous play-maker that the Gators are planning on playing him on offense at wide receiver as well as at cornerback in 2013. Florida says he will play more corner than anything, but if the team’s young receivers don’t step up, Purifoy will be prepared for double duty.

As an athlete, there doesn’t appear to be any weakness or limitation for Purifoy. He has ideal size for a cornerback with the agility to turn and run with receivers. Purifoy’s speed and movement skills allow him to run with receivers in and out of breaks to prevent them from gaining separation. It wouldn’t be surprising if the junior has a massive season and contends to be the top defensive back in the nation.

Thorpe Dark Horse:

Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma

The Big XII is college football’s version of Arena football with high-powered passing offenses putting up massive point totals on a weekly basis. While most defensive backs struggle against the Big XII offenses, Colvin was superb in 2012. The Oklahoma secondary was expected to be led by safety Tony Jefferson, but Colvin was the player who really stood out with consistently good performances.

Colvin recorded four interceptions, 11 passes broken up, 61 tackles and two sacks last season. The junior stood out against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. He was one of the few defensive backs who didn’t get embarrassed by West Virginia’s combination of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Colvin has good speed to go along with his height and length. The 6-foot, 180-pounder can match up on speed receivers or big wide outs. He has nice man-coverage ability with the quickness and flexibility to turn and run with receivers downfield. Colvin also does a nice job of playing the ball. He had 84 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss and six passes broken up in 2011.

Colvin should see plenty of opportunities to showcase his pass coverage in Big XII play this year and rack up nice statistical totals. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he is the Thorpe winner for the 2013 season. He could produce a large total of interceptions and passes batted away.

Honorable Mentions: Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, Georgia cornerback Damien Swann, Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler, LSU safety Craig Loston, North Carolina cornerback/safety Tre Boston, Florida State safety Lamarcus Joyner, Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen, Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama cornerback Deion Blue, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs, Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson, Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, USC safety Dion Bailey, Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett and Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.

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